SNP plans for second independence referendum suffers major setback

Nicola Sturgeon’s party loses seats to Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats

Nicola Sturgeon admitted she was “disappointed” by the results.

Nicola Sturgeon admitted she was “disappointed” by the results.

 

The Scottish National Party suffered its worst election setback in over a decade as it lost more than 20 seats and saw its vote share fall sharply.

A number of high profile SNP incumbent MPs lost their seats, including former party leader Alex Salmond and Westminster leader Angus Robertson.

The SNP went into this general election on the back on a return-breaking performance in 2015, when the party emerged with all but three of Scotland’s 59 seats.

Nicola Sturgeon admitted she was “disappointed” as the Scottish first minister watched her party lose 21 seats, dropping to 35.

From early on it was clear th SNP would struggle to repeat that return. In the first seat declared in Scotland, Labour overcame a 17 per cent SNP majority to win Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

Although the SNP once more emerged as Scotland’s largest party – registering its second highest number of Westminster seats – it lost seats in onetime heartlands across Scotland. The main beneficiaries were the Conservatives, who won more than a dozen seats, while both Labour and the Liberal Democrats made unexpected gains.

The scale of these defeats leaves major gaps in the SNP’s Westminster frontbench – and raises serious questions about the prospect of a second independence referendum.

Reflect on result

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would “reflect on the result” of the election.

“I will take time to do that,” she added.

Influential education minister John Swinney, a former SNP leader and deputy leader, said the prospect of a second independence referendum had motivated voters against the nationalists.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson hailed a “historic” night for her party, which went into the general election with just a single seat in Scotland.

After decades in which the Tories were widely seen as “toxic”, the Conservatives won a series of victories, particularly in the Borders region and north-east Scotland, long an SNP stronghold.

“I think we have seen the country’s reaction in the number of SNP seat’s falling,” Ms Davidson said, adding that the prospect of a second independence referendum “is dead”.

In Moray, SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson saw a majority of more than 9,000 overturned, with Scottish Tory Douglas Ross taking a seat held by the nationalists for the past thirty years. In nearby Gordon, former Scottish first minster Alex Samond lost out to the Conservatives.

Grievous blow’

Salmond, who was Scotland’s first minister between 2007 and 2014, had won a majority of 8,687 at the last election in 2015. “The SNP have lost many fine parliamentarians this evening and that’s a grievous blow to the SNP,” Mr Salmond said.

Elsewhere, the SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh lost Ochil and South Perthshire to the Tories, who were a distant third in 2015. John Nicolson of the SNP lost Dunbartonshire East to Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats, who ended the night on four seats after also picking up wins in Edinburgh West and Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.

Among the biggest surprises on the night was the success of Scottish Labour. The once dominant party in Scotland, Labour had been expected to struggle in this election, but the party improved its vote share from 2015 and ended the night on seven seats.

Independence coffin

In Edinburgh South, Ian Murray- Scotland’s only Labour MP in the last parliament — increased his majority in Edinburgh to more than 15,000.

Scottish voters had “hammered the final nail into the independence coffin,” Mr Murray said.

The general election marks the first significant electoral defeat for the SNP since the party took power in Edinburgh a decade ago. Nevertheless, the party did hold the majority of the seats won in 2015, including Mhairi Black in Paisley and Renfrewshire South and SNP Treasury spokesman and former Westminster leader, Stewart Hosie, retaining Dundee West.